Adding Death Dates: Impact on Orbis Searching

From: Manon Théroux
Date: (6/20/06 creation date/ 08/21/2006 9:43 AM revision date)

Date: Tue, 20 Jun 2006 20:07:54 -0400
From: Manon Theroux <>
Subject: [Yulibl] Adding death dates: impact on ORBIS searching

Dear users of Orbis:

Earlier this year, LC began allowing the addition of death dates to headings with open-ended dates (e.g. Smith, Josefina, 1970- ). Since the LC decision, death dates have been getting added to authority record headings at a furious pace. Here is a list of headings that have been changed since February 2006, organized by week: .

The good news is that we receive the changed authority records in a timely way from our authorities vendor, MARS, and we load those changed records almost immediately into Orbis. The bad news? The corrections that need to be made retrospectively to the headings in our bibliographic records lag far behind. As a result of this time lag, two unfortunate scenarios (affecting anyone who searches Orbis) are becoming increasingly common. The Authority Control Advisory Committee would like to bring your attention to them:


Scenario #1. Cross references for a name will not display in the OPAC unless at least one bib record with the name has had the death date added.

Example:  The authority record for the heading "Langdon-Davies, John, 1897- " recently got a death date of 1971 added to it, but the bib records have not yet been updated in Orbis.

An OPAC Author search on "Langdon-Davies, John" will retrieve the 33 bib records we have under the old heading "Langdon-Davies, John, 1897- ." However, if someone were to search using "Davies, John Langdon" (not knowing the name is a compound surname), they would NOT retrieve the cross reference that leads from the "Davies" form of name to the "Langdon-Davies" form of name. Because not a single bib record has the correct heading "Langdon-Davies, John, 1897-1971," the system assumes we don't have any works by that author and tries to be helpful by suppressing what it thinks would be a "blind reference" (one that leads a patron to nothing). Try this in Orbis:

Scenario #2. Cross references that do display will not link properly unless all bib records with the name have had the death date added.

Taking the same example:  Assume, we have one bib record with the new heading "Langdon-Davies, John, 1897-1971" and thus the cross reference is activated in the OPAC. If you search using "Davies, John Langdon" you now get the cross-reference with the "More Info" button. When you click on the hyperlinked reference, it takes you to the place in the index where the new heading "Langdon-Davies, John, 1897-1971" is located. It lists the heading as the first line in the results screen and shows that we have 1 bib record by the author. However, the bib records that do not yet have the death date added will be listed separately as the last line on the *previous* screen (because the headings are listed alphabetically and a heading without a death date comes before a heading with one). The person searching will not know that we actually have 32 other bib records by the author. Try this in TOrbis:

Results retrieved:

#         Results   Headings
[1]       1         Langdon-Davies, John, 1897-1971
[2]       3         Langdon, E. Jean Matteson, 1944-
[3]       4         Langdon, Emma Florence, 1874-

On the previous screen:

#         Results   Headings
[48]      1         Langdon, David J. (David Jeffrey), 1935-
[49]      2         Langdon-Davies, Bernard Noel, 1876-
[50]      32       Langdon-Davies, John, 1897-

Note: This second problem also affects searching in the cataloging module when redirecting a search from a cross-reference.


What can been done about this? We have made fixing headings that have had death dates added to them a higher priority. It will be one of our primary clean-up projects for the summer. However, be aware that we have only a limited number of staff available for making these corrections (and the corrections must be done manually). We are also investigating making global changes to headings. Because Voyager's global change mechanisms are exceedingly clunky, we have high hopes for a program called Correction Receiver that was developed by Gary Strawn of Northwestern University Library - if all goes well, we may be able to implement it in the coming year.

Let me know if you have any questions. We'll give a progress report later in the summer. In the meantime, you might want to look at the previous results screen after following a cross reference for a heading with a 20th- or 21st-century death date, especially if the result set seems surprisingly small!

-Manon Théroux

(for the Authority Control Advisory Committee)


Manon Théroux
Authority Control Librarian
Catalog Department
Yale University Library
P.O. Box 208240
New Haven, CT 06520-8240       

203-432-8376 (tel)
203-432-7231 (fax)


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